When I saw these luscious, perfect, purple beauties at the grocery store I couldn't resist myself and brought home quite a big bag of them. I had so many ideas of what to make with them and one of those was this tasty, spicy gravy. You could make this as a stuffed brinjal gravy as well but since my husband likes the eggplants to be really well cooked and I had no intention of using a lot of oil, I cut them into quarters, smeared them with the masala and roasted them in the oven first before adding them to the gravy. Works out great!
Another tip would be to make this curry well ahead of time and allow it to rest for about 6-8 hours before serving. Something magical happens during that time and the flavours mature resulting in a much tastier dish than if you were serving right away. I know it seems like a long list of ingredients and quite a process, but you can do quite a few things in parallel to cut down on the time. However, do not cut down on the simmering time or the resting time - the results are definitely worth the wait.
Fresh (indian) Brinjals - 6 to 7, cut into 4 or 6 pieces each (lengthwise)
Cloves - 1 or 2
Cinnamon - one 1 inch piece
Cardamom - 1
Aniseed (Sombu/Saunf) - small pinch
Oil - 2 tbsp
For Masala powder:
Roast the following in a few drops of oil and grind to a powder
Urad dhal - 2 tsp
Coriander seeds / Coriander powder - 1 tsp (if using powder, don't roast or add last)
Methi seeds - a tiny pinch (5)
Sesame seeds - 1 tsp
Dried Red Chillies - 4 to 5
Roasted Groundnuts /Peanuts - 2 tbsp
Dessicated Coconut - 2 tbsp (Fresh grated would work too)
Fry the following in 1 tsp oil and grind together
Onion - 1 medium, cut into big pieces
Tomato - 1, cut into big pieces
Garlic cloves - 4
Ginger - half inch piece
Green Chillies - 6
1) Preheat oven to 425F. Coat the eggplant pieces with the masala powder. Spray with oil and spread as a single layer on a baking sheet, skin side down and cook in a 425F oven for about 30 mins or till soft.
2) Meanwhile, fry and grind the ingredients for the gravy.
3) Heat oil in a pan and add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and aniseed, then add the ground onion-tomato paste and fry on medium for about 10 minutes or till oil separates.
4) Add the cooked eggplant pieces along with any remaining masala powder and required amount of water to make a thick gravy and allow to come to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20-30 mins.
Ideally make this curry the previous day to allow the flavours to come together or atleast allow to rest for 6 to 8 hrs before serving. This is equally delicious with rice or rotis.